Sentiment divided in Union’s new territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh
Little hope in Kashmir that new administration would unclog corrupt systems; people of Ladakh optimistic of developmentUpdated: Jul 16, 2020, 22:38 IST
As officials scrambled to make last-minute arrangements for the swearing-in of Jammu and Kashmir’s first lieutenant governor at Raj Bhavan, Mian Rouf anxiously climbed the steps of the Srinagar high court five kilometres away. He had braved the morning cold and sparse transport choices to attend a critical hearing challenging the detention of his uncle, president of the high court bar association, MA Qayoom.
Qayoom’s detention shortly after the scrapping of J&K’s special status had sparked criticism and one of the cases that galvanised opinion in the Valley against the government’s move — all senior advocates have since been on strike. He has since been in jail in Agra, and family members complain the authorities need not have put the ailing 72-year-old lawyer in prison.
“There have been many delays in the case and the government has not filed its response to the notice. But we believe the law is in our favour,” he said. Around him, groups of local advocates nodded in agreement, saying that numerous cases of detention and alleged human rights excesses have taken the shine off the government’s claims of development and a brighter future.Also Watch: Explained | J&K and Ladakh become Union Territories: What it means
“There is little communication and no internet. The people feel cheated and are indifferent to whether it remains a state or UT. Many of us who believed in the Constitution have no faith in it anymore,” said GN Shaheen, a former general secretary of the Bar Association.
The watershed bifurcation of J&K on Thursday morning sparked a similarly muted reaction across Srinagar and many parts of Kashmir even though some people held out hope that a new administration and promises of more de-centralised arrangement would unclog notoriously corrupt systems.
Many local people and activists from the Kashmiri Muslim community said they viewed the UT status as a downgrade from a state that enjoyed special provisions and constitutional protections. “Our main grievance is that it happened without our consent. I am not a Pakistan supporter but we should have had a say in what happened to us,” sad Mohammad Yousuf, a resident of Pampore.
The two days in the run up to the defining event were rocked with violence. At least 40 incidents of stone pelting and violent protests were reported on Tuesday as a group of European Union lawmakers visited the Valley. A near-total shutdown was also observed across many parts of Kashmir with shops shuttered and most vehicles off the roads.
On Thursday, a top police official confirmed to HT that no incidents of violence were reported in Srinagar. The police control room also said that no incidents of protest or stone pelting were seen in the sensitive districts of Baramulla, Anantnag and Awantipora, but that a shutdown was enforced by local residents in large parts of south Kashmir.
Thursday was work as usual in government offices even though most of them worked on a skeletal strength because the official machinery has already shifted to Jammu. At the deputy commissioner’s office in Srinagar, a long queue of people was seen waiting to use the Internet.
Since web services are suspended in the Valley, the government has set up centres at select locations for the residents. Meher, a BTech student from Awantipora, who gave only her first name and had come to submit a form for a scholarship said she was waiting for three hours with little success.
“This is how it has been here since August 5. Hopefully now that the UT has been formed the government will restore internet facilities and we can get back to normal lives,” she said.
A business person in the city’s Jawahar Nagar said the residents are hopeful that the transition will improve the condition of living. “For the last three months, our kids have not gone to school. We don’t know what difference the UT status will make, but for now it seems like a loss of identity and status to us,” he said.
Some activists said the nullification of Article 370 and bifurcation had stripped off the legitimacy of the local government. “It is against all principles of democracy. It seems that the current shutdown and civil curfew will continue well into the future,” said Hamida Nayeem, an activist.
But noted tribal scholar Dr Javaid Rahi from the Gujjar-Bakerwal tribe sounded hopeful. “There were no proper laws for us before...Though tribal status was given to us in 1991 after a long struggle, but it was not on a par with safeguards available to STs [Scheduled Tribes] in other parts of the country...We feel a new era of progress, development and equal opportunities will start for all of us. But it would have been good, had the statehood been maintained.”
Morup Stanzin, a Buddhist from Ladakh, spoke of his expectations. “We are happy with the UT as we enter a new era in the history of Ladakh. We have a lot of hope and expectation from the Centre for the development of Ladakh region.”